As CPS talks about closing as many as 100 traditional CPS schools, they are facing pressure to take a hard line when it comes to under-performing charter schools.

CPS officials announced Tuesday that12 charter operators, running 32 campuses, are up for renewal this year. And they pledged to scrutinize them.

“Every school in every corner of the city, regardless of school type, must be held to rigorous accountability standards without exception to ensure all students have access to the high-quality education they deserve,” said CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett in a press release. “We can and will take action on operators who have failed to meet the terms of their agreements.”

Unlike traditional schools, which can be shut down at any time, CPS officials must wait until the charter’s contract is up before they pull the plug on them.

Andrew Broy, the executive director of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, says he expects for CPS to move to close some charter schools and to give others shortened contracts with probationary terms.

In the past, the distrct has not been aggressive in shutting down poorly-performing charter schools. Only two CPS charter schools have closed in the past five years. Choir Academy leaders made the decision to shut their doors for financial and performance issues. ACT charter’s board of directors was pressured to close the low-scoring school, but the ACT charter remained active and was given to KIPP to open a junior high school this year.

Last year, CPS gave two charter schools shortened contracts and put them on alert that they need to perform better. One of them, ACE Tech Charter, got a one-year contract. For the past three years, it has been level 3, but the district is waiting for more information before issuing a rating this year. 

The others face renewal as they come to the end of five-year contracts. Among them are UNO, the University of Chicago Charter Schools and the two campuses of North Lawndale College Prep.

The renewal process includes site visits, a review of whether the charter school has met terms of the agreement, including performance measures, and public hearings after CPS officials make a recommendation. The process is rather fast with renewals to be voted on at the January board meeting.

Several charter schools on the list might be vulnerable. In addition to ACE Tech Charter School, the three campuses run by Betty Shabazz International Charter School and one of the Aspira Charter Schools have had Level 3 ratings—the lowest the district gives—for at least three years. North Lawndale College Prep’s performance also has vacillated between Level 2 and Level 3. Leaders from these schools did not return calls on Tuesday.

Shayne Evans, director of the University of Chicago Charter School’s four campuses, says that, even though it is a renewal year, he and his staff are staying focused on the performance of students. One of the charter schools elementary campuses, North Kenwood-Oakland, received the highest rating CPS can give, while the Donoghue campus got the lowest.

He says Donoghue has a new campus director and it is trending upward, despite the low rating. “In 2005-2006, the year Donoghue opened, 51 percent of students met or exceeded standards,” Evans says. “In 2011-2012, 76 percent did. We have had a large amount of growth there.”

This story has been updated with a correction. It incorrectly stated that ACE Tech was given a Level 3 rating this year. The charter has not yet been rated.


Sarah is the deputy editor of Catalyst Chicago.

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